Author Archives: Jay Paul

Songhoy Blues – Resistance (Fat Possum)

Adventurous new music from this four-member Malian band & numerous musician friends. Mixes guitar-driven Sahara desert blues with elements of other genres that impressed them while on world tour; soul, funk, R&B, & a little hip-hop too. Super guitar & nice horns, keyboards, percussion, vocals … It’s all here. Advertisements

Ensemble Novo – Who Saw You Then, Who Sees You Now (Frosty Cordial)

Talented quintet from Philadelphia covers Brazilian gems from the late 60s & early 70s bossa nova era. Arrangements lean toward mellow jazz, with guitar, vibraphone, tenor sax & flute, bass, & percussion.

Nina Miranda – Freedom of Movement (Six Degrees)

Daughter of a Brazilian dad & British mom, and having lived in both countries, this vocalist was well-prepared to create this masterful musical fusion of two worlds. Traditional Bahia rhythms meld seamlessly with arrangements inspired by classic & modern British & US artists. Lots of variety. Explore!

Melodic Intersect – Looking Forward (Aimerc)

Gorgeous Indian classical music layered with western jazz improvisation. Various tracks feature nicely blended strains of sitar, jazz organ & piano, guitar, sax, & Cajon. The ensemble’s 6th studio album. Masterful & well worth exploring!

Los Wembler’s de Iquitos – Ikaro del Amor (Barbes)

From the isolated jungle city of Iquitos, Peru on the Amazon River, here is the first Amazonian band to electrify the local dance music & kick-start the Cumbia Amazonica movement. Founded in 1968 by a father & his 5 sons, the EP features Chicha – Peruvian Cumbia with indigenous melodies incorporating surf & psychedelic rock. […]

Music Action Ensemble – Foundation (Giant Steps)

The Music Action Lab  was set up for musicians who seek to have a social impact through music. The 9 musicians on this CD were selected from nearly 100 applicants from 22 countries to collaborate in creating this original music with socially conscious themes. Influences from the Middle East, India/Pakistan, and more. Diverse styles but […]

James Whetzel & Yas – Life is Raining (Olin Place)

Sarod master & composer Whetzel first met the Algerian-born Parisian poet YAS more than a decade ago, & they have yearned to pursue a collaboration ever since. Finally, they have reunited to make this music, and it was well worth the wait! This combination of rhythmic musical arrangements & the recitation of French poetry works […]

Hermanos Morales – Los Autenticos del Moka (self-released)

Who are these musicians? No idea…! Nothing on Google except access to songs. Anyway, great Latin folk with lots of heart & soul. The on-line cover says 100% Cuban music, but it reminds us of the beautiful folksy street music heard on the Pacific coast of South America. Check it out!

Tarek Yamani – Peninsular (Edict)

This Lebanese jazz pianist & composer explores the music of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East, khaleej music with roots in African polyrhythm, like jazz has. These mostly original tunes reconnect Arabic, African, & western jazz while preserving Arabic quarter tones & styles, with pleasing effect. All good…Wonderful music! Filed in World section

Dosti Music Project – Travelers (Found Sound Nation)

The product of a collaborative musical residency hosted by this Brooklyn-based artist collective and involving musicians from Pakistan, India, & America. Running through the tracks are influences from all of these places: Sufi Ghazals, Bengali & Tamil folk tunes, & even Appalachian fiddle. Celebrates our common humanity. Fantastic music!

Lula Pena – Archivo Pittoresco (Crammed Discs)

Subtle, plaintive, acoustic masterpieces with smoky vocals from this Portuguese singer, songwriter, guitarist, & poet. Traces of fado, ladino, flamenco, & more contribute to this quiet Iberian gem. Check it out!

Las Cafeteras – Tastes Like LA (self-released)

Folksy East LA Latin band that mixes traditional and modern Mexican/Latin influences while singing about their largely immigrant community and the challenges they face in achieving their dreams in today’s America.

Alex Cuba – La Unico Constante (Caracol)

La Unico Constante means ‘The One Constant.’ Smooth, mostly acoustic, folksy Latin songs with longing, soulful vocals in Spanish. Might some think of him as the John Denver of Havana?

Various Artists – Vintage Italia (Putumayo)

Italian songs from the 1950s, 60s, and a few newer tunes that were inspired by these traditions. Possibly a good soundtrack for an Italian dinner party.

Oumou Sangare – Mogoya (No Format)

Her fifth studio album in 27 years, this powerful vocalist obviously puts much thought into her compositions. Here she seeks to speak to the new generation in Mali, but using many traditional instruments & with much respect for Mali’s musical heritage. Outstanding!

Mamadou Kelly – Politiki (Clermont)

Malian desert blues from a master guitarist who played for years with Ali Farka Toure, performing with an impressive collection of fellow musicians; their band is called BanKaiNa. All original compositions (the first seven are by Kelly). Great new sounds from the Sahara!

Emel Mathlouthi – Ensen (Partisan)

The Loreena McKennitt of Tunisia? One might say this brings to mind a fusion of Celtic & Arabic soundscapes, with creative vocals that soar, throbbing Tunisian-style percussion, delicate layers of electronica, & fascinating arrangements featuring traditional Tunisian instruments. Known for her anthems during the Tunisian revolution, the theme here is a condemnation of dictatorship. Last […]

Niyaz – The Best of Niyaz (Six Degrees)

The band’s favorite tracks, mixing ancient Sufi poetry & folk songs from diverse religious & ethnic groups in their native Iran, original compositions by vocalist Azam Ali & multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian. A.R. Rahman featured on track #5. Many good ones here.

Mashkoor Ali Khan – Transcendence (Nimbus)

A collection of ragas faithful to the tradition of the Kirana Gharana and the 13th century musician Gopal Nayak. Vocalist Ustad Ali Khan is a descendant of this line, born in Kairana in Uttar Pradesh (India), from which this music gets its name. You can feed your spirituality with this.

Cilantro Boombox – Shine (self-released)

New fusion from Austin TX, mixing Mexican & other Latin influences with soul, rhythm & blues, African beats, & rock ‘n roll. Defies classification but pleasing nevertheless.

Big Mean Sound Machine – Runnin’ for the Ghost (self-released)

More fine tunes from this Ithaca, NY based Afrobeat-jazz-space band. More than a dozen musicians, with an amazing percussion, a blazing brass section, bass you can feel in your stomach, layers of synthesizer & other embellishments, exciting compositions… Don’t miss this!

Vieux Farka Touré – Samba (Six Degrees)

New songs from a remarkable Malian guitarist (& son of superstar Ali Farka Touré), recorded in a NY studio with a live audience. Lots of guests & two tracks with Idan Raichel on keyboards. Title means “second born,” an auspicious position in Malian families. Exciting guitar & compositions!

Daymé Arocena – Cubafonica (Brownswood)

Second collection of Afro-Cuban gems from this creative young (born 1993) Cuban singer-songwriter, first discovered & nurtured professionally by Gillies Peterson of Havana Cultura fame. All tracks composed by Arocena & recorded in Cuba with contributions from 20 other talented musicians plus some super producers & arrangers.

Ondatropica – Baile Bucanero (Soundway)

New tracks recorded in Bogota, Colombia with 35 contributing musicians led by Will (Quantic) Holland & Mario Galeano. Elevates traditional Colombian music to the point of doing righteous homage to centuries of African, English, & Spanish cultural heritage. Exceptional!

Mariah Parker – Indo Latin Jazz Live in Concert (Ancient Future)

The vibrancy of live music, the poignancy that flows from an ensemble of top-tier musicians led by this gifted composer/pianist, the spice of musical traditions from places far away with hot climates…it’s all here. All compositions by Mariah Parker. Filed under World/International